You may have heard by now that Southwest Airlines’ pilots have rejected the tentative agreement achieved between their union, the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association and the company.  The contract failed to pass by a very narrow margin.  Why would Southwest pilots fail to ratify an agreement that includes pay increases in this environment?  I have a few thoughts in no particular order.

  • The pilot group is not happy with the situation they currently find themselves in.  As far as I can tell, this is just about the first time ever that Southwest isn’t adding planes and pilots.  Growth is stagnating, promotions from First Officer to Captain aren’t happening, and unlike others, Southwest pilots are not used to this.
  • The pilots aren’t happy with the codesharing provisions included in the contract.  Think about it….the airline is shrinking, and Southwest’s first codeshare partners are airlines in Canada and Mexico.  If I were a Southwest pilot, I would think that those are the two most logical places on the planet right now for me to fly my own airplanes.  I might not care as much if the airline were otherwise growing and promotions from First Officer to Captain were occurring at a decent pace.
  • There are always a few random pilots that think they’re underpaid no matter how much money they make, and no amount will ever be enough.  In a vote so close, that small amount of pilots could make the difference (and perhaps did).
  • Money isn’t everything.

So…you have the gist of my opinion on why the contract failed.  Southwest is going through some growing pains, but I have some faith that working together with its fabulous employees, the company will persevere.  This will be an interesting story to watch as it unfolds.